To my friends who had babies before me, I’m sorry I didn't get it
Some friends and I recently got together and revealed that we all felt horribly guilty about how little we helped our friends with babies, before we had babies of our own.
And in a way, I was relieved to hear they felt this way too.
Because when I think about all the people who had babies before me (which is the majority of my friendship circle), I knew nothing about what would really help them at the time, and now I feel quite ashamed.
I sent gifts of course, and sometimes food, because that seemed like an obvious thing that they would need, and I visited them as soon as they would have me. I asked for cuddles with the baby and encouraged them to tell me their birth story in all its gory detail. I cringed at the drama of it all and the mention of so many bodily fluids. I posed for photos with their scrunchy newborn, with my blow-dried hair and fresh face of make up and clean-smelling clothes, and I sat on their couch for a few hours and then I left.
And now I’ve had a baby of my own, I realise that there is a whole other side to new motherhood that I knew nothing about. What I offered was not what they really needed from me at all.
I spent so long cooing over the baby that I didn’t make a big enough deal about her. I wish I had said, “You’re so amazing, to have made this precious thing, do you know that?” and made her feel like a queen, a goddess, a warrior. But I just didn't get it. I didn't appreciate the enormity of it all, the profoundness, the terrifying reality of loving someone with your whole heart.
I wish I had known that when she cried, it was because new motherhood is so completely overwhelming, and that the tears were an outpouring of love and fear and exhaustion and hazy, dreamy weirdness. I wish I had said, “You might not feel like yourself right now, but you will find yourself again soon.”
I wish I had offered to cook and clean, and watch the baby whilst she showered. I wish I had gone round at 7am, and not 5pm (the witching hour), and told her to go back to bed whilst I held the fort and held the baby for a while.
I wish I had turned up with unwashed hair once in a while, just for a bit of moral support.
I wish I had known just how long and lonely the nights can be, and how no tiredness can ever compare. I wish I had reached out in the darkness, to let her know she wasn’t the only one awake in the world and said, “Hang in there, mama. You’re doing great.”
But I couldn’t have known these things, not really, because new motherhood is a weird and wonderful, clandestine, secret club. You can’t know it until you’ve lived it and come out the other side.
But once you have lived it, and you’re out of the haze yourself, you pass the baton of love and wisdom to the next new mum, and you tell them, “You are amazing, you know, and you’ve totally got this.
But if you haven’t got this, don’t worry. Because I’ve got you.”